The Chatham Artillery was a local militia that was formed in 1786. Militia members participated in the Oconee Wars between 1789 and 1793, and George Washington wanted to thank them for that service. He came to Savannah in May of 1791, and during his visit, presented the Chatham Artillery with 2 cannons, one that was captured at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, and one that was presented as a gift to the young country by France.
The Chatham Artillery held a ball in his honor, and what’s a ball without punch? So they made a special punch to celebrate George’s visit.
That said it was also noted in Savannah that when Sherman was on his march to the sea and burning everything in it’s path he arrived in Savannah around Christmas and the local Artillery supplied his men with their punch. They enjoyed it so much he spared the city and offered Savannah as a give to Lincoln as a Christmas Present instead of burning it to the ground like everything he touched in the last 500 miles. So you could say this punch saved the city….that is some damn good punch!
Back to the punch:
I was looking online for the receipt for Chatham Artillery Punch and found there is a lot of misinformation out there with none of them getting it right. The first thing about this punch is you have to be from Savannah to appreciate the amount of love that goes into it.
There were a few parties I can recall where this was the staple beverage. The punch showed up in 25 gallon coolers, yes coolers, meaning more than one. Before the night was over the coolers were empty and people were sprawled out all over Savannah’s squares like a giant party bomb had gone off.
The Punch, like most of Savannah, it’s a complicated and delicious thing. Making the punch takes time, love, and a level of insanity that only a native of Savannah could posses.
So I took the last 40 years of handed down knowledge and consulted a few “punch gurus” to give you this, enjoy y’all!
Chatham Artillery Punch – For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)
1 ½ gal. Catawba Wine
½ gal. Rum (probably Jamaican)
1 qt. Gin
1 qt. Brandy
½ pt. Benedictine
2 qt. Maraschino Cherries
1 ½ qt. Rye Whiskey
1 ½ gal. Strong Tea (black)
2 ½ lbs. brown sugar
1 ½ qts. Orange juice
1 ½ qts. Lemon Juice
4 Bottles of Champagne (more if needed)
Mix from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before serving. If I have a party on Saturday I tend to start the mix Tuesday night. I know it’s more than 48 hours but that has always been my game plan and it’s not failed me yet. Letting the flavors mix is key to the great taste.
First, juice the oranges and lemons into, you guessed it, juice. Use your hands, a manual juicer, or use mechanical juicer but either way you need to juice them. Don’t be a cheap SOB and get store crap. No decent punch maker would cut corners. Using fresh fruit is advised and will give you the best taste.
Take the skin of the fruit and muddle it with brown sugar and let sit for 1 – 2 hours. Things down south move slow and making this punch is no different.
After they sit for a spell muddle them again for good measure.
Add the muddled mix to the juice and stir in to allow the muddle to mix with the juice. Let the juice and the muddle sit for 15 minutes, then remove the orange and lemon peels from the punch mixture. You want the taste of the muddle but not making it too strong. Strain if needed, but really you don’t need to. Leave that pulp in there it’s damn tasty. Makes you think it’s healthy and something you might want for breakfast. Gives the punch texture and lets your guest know you did it by hand.
Brew the tea and add the rest of the brown sugar to the tea to make it sweat as a southern belle. Combine the juice and the tea….stir slowly because stirring fast would make a mess.
Now add the Rum, Gin, Brandy, Benedictine (Go BC), Catawba Win and Rye Whiskey to the juice and tea mixture. Basically everything but the ice and champagne. Now measure out the cherries and add to the punch mixture.
Let this stand until you are ready to serve (48 – 24 hours). The mixture is the base of your punch. Let all the things you just put in the punch get to know each other. They need to mingle and get well acquainted before you serve them. Now the flavors will combine and start to form the part of the punch that will kicks your ass with deliciousness.
You don’t have to refrigerate this stuff as there is enough alcohol in here to preserve a few bodies and frankly nothing is going to spoil. Just let it sit at room temp for a few days. Ignore it and tasting it is only to be done by the preparer.
Before serving add two or three hand fulls of ice to each 5 gallon serving. Just want to start to cool it off but not water it down. A small block of ice will do as well.
As the party guest start to arrive show them you have some Savannah class and pop those bottle of champagne then add them to the punch. Serve and enjoy the atmosphere!
Any Savannahian will tell you this punch is best served from a red solo cup as it magnifies the taste and completes the ensemble. Other colored cups should be used for beer and water. Red Only!
This will knock you on your ass and it’s so tasty!